Sea otters in Southeast AK

Sea otters in Southeast AK

Fish Radio
May 28, 2013

 This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – A grim outlook for sea otters versus Southeast Alaska fisheries.     More after this –

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 Sea otters are cleaning out valuable commercial fisheries in Southeast Alaska – they have been at it for decades.  A second report updates the financial hit the otters have caused to the region’s fisheries since 2005.  Both were done by the McDowell Group of Juneau for the Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association (SARDFA).  The reports assess losses to the sea cucumber, geoduck clam, red sea urchin, and Dungeness crab fisheries. 

 The bottom line – Sea otter predation in those fisheries has cost Southeast Alaska’s economy more than $28 million in direct and indirect impacts since 1995…

Fish and Game estimates sea otters affect 39 percent of Southeast’s dive fishery harvest areas. Out of 15 Dungeness crab districts, six have large otter populations and dungie pots have lost nearly 3 million pounds to otters in a decade.  The combined fisheries employ roughly 625 fishermen and dozens more tender operators and processing workers. 

 Best estimates say about 19,000 sea otters had taken up residence  in Southeast Alaska in 2011.  Based on a conservative estimate of weight at 50 pounds, and daily food intake of 20% of body weight, that number is expected to approach 28,000 by 2015.   The animals would consume over 10 million pounds of Southeast Alaska’s dive and crab species per year.   

 The report concludes that commercial dive fishing and large populations of sea otters cannot coexist in the same waters. And once commercially viable numbers of geoducks, urchins, sea cukes and crab are gone, they’re not likely to return while sea otters remain.

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